2018 has officially begun, at least in some parts of the world. The first to welcome the new year are people in the Pacific islands of Samoa, Tonga and Kiritimati, an atoll in the ocean also known as Christmas Island, part of the republic of Kiribati.
Samoa, a country comprising the westernmost group of Polynesia’s Samoan Islands where less than 200,000 people live, was once one of the last places in the world to celebrate the New Year. Then, in 2011, it decided to change its international dateline to align more closely with New Zealand and Australia in a bid to improve trade ties.
The move, which reversed a decision taken 119 years previously to align with the U.S., required the country to skip a day, so Dec. 30, 2011 never happened in Samoa, as the BBC reported at the time.
American Samoa however decided to stick with the international dateline, which is now crossing between the two island groups. This means that those who really love New Year’s celebrations could be in Samoa on Jan. 1, take a boat to cross the 100 miles to American Samoa, and party on New Year’s Eve all over again.
New Zealand entered 2018 an hour after Samoa. Fireworks lit up the sky over the city of Auckland and in Wellington, the first major capital to welcome the new year.
The Wellington City Council organized the celebrations at the Whareipo Lagoon in the city center, an area that was only given its official name in 2015. The word ‘Whairepo’ is the Māori name for the eagle ray that feed and shelter in the lagoon.
Eastern Australia’s cities of Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and Honiara entered 2018 two hours after New Zealand and about an hour after Anadyr, Russia’s easternmost town.
Australia’s largest city, Sydney has a world-famous fireworks display brightening the sky over the iconic Opera House in the city’s harbor, attracting spectators from the world over.
While the show is available for live streaming online and on TV, revelers who wanted to experience it live began congregating as much as forty hours ahead of the launch of the first fireworks to secure their favorite spot, local media reported.
It took more than two hours for all of Australia’s three time zones to past midnight. In the meantime, Japan’s Buddhist temples will have celebrated the new year striking their gong 108 times at midnight, in an effort to expel 108 types of human weakness and prepare for new beginnings. Shinto households instead will have gone through a thorough cleaning to welcome the kami (god) believed to be visiting at New Year’s.
South Korea entered 2018 along with Japan with a fireworks display over Seoul’s Lotte World Tower, the fifth tallest skyscraper in the world.
— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) December 31, 2017
Its northern neighbor instead followed 30 minutes later with a pyrotechnic show accompanied by live music performances in Pyongyang.
North Korea created its own time zone in August 2015 to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation from Japanese rule, under which the Korean peninsula was forced to change its time zone to match Japan.
Half an hour later, 2018 began in China, the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore, where fireworks were lighting up the iconic Marina Bay.
In Hong Kong, the fireworks display lit up the sky above the iconic Victoria Harbour to the sound of Auld Lang Syne remix.
The world’s tallest twin skyscrapers, the Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur, offered the backdrop to the fireworks welcoming 2018 in the country.